Life Verses – Ears to Hear

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’m sorry I left you hanging last week. (See “Life Verses – On Fire“) Like the two on the road to Emmaus, my heart was on fire as the Lord impressed upon me that He wanted me to write. My willing heart had to seek His heart—a long process in bringing me to the fulness of His will.

That year, I was engaged in a Bible study of Matthew with other ladies in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). As I worked through the study, I found myself thinking of the lesser known characters along the way.

I wanted to stop and imagine what might be the rest of their stories. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see them as more than just two-verse people? What were their families like? How did they relate to Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to write about one of these and bring them to life?

Every now and then, I noticed that Matthew recorded this phrase from Jesus,

“He who ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

A few chapters later, there it came again.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9 and 43

I stopped each time to ponder those words.

Later in our study of Matthew, we came to the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the flurry of activity with the Temple guards, religious leaders, and disciples, Peter spontaneously started swinging his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.

I checked the other three gospels and found a few more facts about this man. Jesus healed the man’s ear. The man’s name was Malchus. 

At some point, everything came together for me. Malchus was a lesser known character. He lost his ear, but Jesus gave him back his hearing. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” What happened to this servant? Malchus worked for the high priest who was determined to have Jesus crucified? How did that personal touch, that healing, affect Malchus’ decisions?

That, my friends, was how my first book gave birth. I titled it “Ears to Hear.”

It had been a long, slow process that year, but the Lord seared my mind with the idea of looking at lesser known characters in the Bible, then to apply “ears to hear” to the account of Malchus with Jesus in the garden and his miraculous healing.

It  took seven years to get from research to writing, editing, and seeking a publisher to the final finished product. Many times I cried out to the Lord, “Who am I to think I can do such a thing?” Then He would remind me that indeed I couldn’t, but He could—with my cooperation.

Another seven years later, Nicodemus’ story was published in “A Heart for Truth” which was twice as long.

Now, five years later, the story of Matthew is getting close to ready in “Eyes to See.”

I sing from a favorite hymn, “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

Life Verses – The Spirit Intercedes

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Perhaps many of you have gone to the doctor and heard the dreaded C word. If not cancer, maybe another take-your-breath-away word.

We had been watching my husband’s TSA score gradually elevate. Then came the day when the doctor said he had prostate cancer. Jim began searching the treatment options—so many directions, each with their sets of pros and cons. At last, he decided to have it surgically removed.

In my stunned state, I recalled sitting in a Bible class as a young bride long ago, when the teacher asked, “What is your greatest fear?” Immediately, I thought of the devastation I would feel to lose my husband. Those thoughts came again when I faced this possibility.

Obviously, one prays for healing, for the Lord’s will to be done, for strength to go through this valley which ever way it goes, but at some point I just didn’t know what else to pray. It is at that point that I turned to Romans.

. . . if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we need to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:25-26

Jesus spoke often of the Holy Spirit. The disciples had the advantage of being with Jesus, God in the flesh, but after his resurrection, he told them,

“. . . Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5

That same Holy Spirit is at work in today’s believers, ever guiding, ever judging, ever strengthening.

In other times in my life, I have asked or offered directions in which the Lord might lead and finally realized I have no more words. In those times, I must plead for the Spirit to intercede with holy groanings for me.

In my husband’s case, the surgery was successful and there was no spread of the cancer. The cancer was small, but testing showed that it had been a fast growing kind. Thankfully, the Lord led us to take care of it in a timely manner.

We “leaned not on our own understanding, but acknowledged Him.” These verses come around again and again. That’s why I call them “life verses.”

No doubt many of you have experienced a frightening diagnosis and could share verses that have sustained you. Please do that in the comments section so others might benefit.

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Day Seven

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

At last—day seven! The armed men and priests have walked around Jericho for six days. (See “Joshua – Keep Walking“) Now, the day they have been waiting for arrives.

They get up at daybreak to be ready for their longer day, the day of triumph.

Last week, we tried to imagine what might be their thoughts as they marched from day one to day six. This week, let’s ponder what the people of Jericho might have been thinking. 

“What are those people doing, marching around our city? Man the walls. Weapons ready. Protect the city!”

“Is that it? Are they just going to walk and leave?” “Here they come again.” “All they know how to do is walk and blow those noisy horns.”

By day seven, “It’s them again. They’ll just march around and be gone. Go on with your work.”

However, on day seven, they march a second time and a third time. The people of Jericho begin to realize that this is not just “once around and be gone.” They likely are getting more worried with every trip around. “What are they up to?”

             

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! Only Rahab and all in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. Joshua 6:16-17

I’ve wondered before whether all the marching of so many feet for hours each day, and the seven-time trip on day seven, would surely shake up the earth around the walls, a unique physical thing the Lord used. No matter how the Lord did it, the people were faithful and gave that final SHOUT!

… the wall collapsed. So every man charged straight in and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

The people had been faithful to follow God’s directions even if it seemed strange and lengthy. Then, on cue, just as he said, they had victory with a SHOUT!

In our day, I think of the office worker who has faithfully behaved in such a way that his fellow worker knows he is a believer. He even mentions a verse now and then that helps his friend along the way or tells of an experience when he felt God’s direction. Then one day (shout), the friend asks a faith question that opens the way for a full witness!

Or here’s the parents who have agonized over the behavior of their teenager. A counselor gives them advice that seems useless, but they try, praying as they go. They don’t see immediate results. It’s like they are walking in the same circles getting nowhere, but they stay the course faithfully, then (shout), the Lord opens a door of great improvement!

Perhaps your challenge is with yourself. Do that thing which he has laid on your heart. As we said last week, keep walking, stay faithful. Your day to shout victory will come!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

David’s Preparation

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

How thrilling for David to be anointed as king by the prophet Samuel. (See David, a King?) But wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall to hear the family discussion about what took place that afternoon with Samuel, especially comments from the seven rejected brothers?

Alas, the next day, back to the regular routine. David goes to the sheep fields as usual. I wonder if scratches his head saying, “Did I just imagine being anointed? And king, of all things?”

But we see no coronation, no crown, no throngs of applauding well-wishers. No, the actual “kinghood” will come later—much later. That’s why I put a question mark after last week’s blog.

While we’re waiting, let’s see what’s going on. These will be days and even years of preparation.

Prep 1 – We’ve already observed some of the songs David has written and the care of his sheep. We discover that he also carries a small harp-like instrument with him. It could have had only five strings strung tight between a Y-shaped branch. Some harps were known to have as many as ten strings.

I can imagine him using his harp many hours to calm the sheep and settle them in for the night. (Much like we use music in our cars and homes.) The harp, no doubt, provides an accompaniment of sorts to his songs.

Prep 2 – We have no milk-toast song writer here, though. David also has the job of fighting off wild dogs or other fierce animals. In fact, we learn later on that indeed, he fights with a lion. The lion attacks one of his sheep. He not only frees the sheep from the lion’s claws, but he grabs the hair of the lion and knocks it out with his rod. Another time, he encounters a bear.

        

Seems to me that he is one brave soul to attempt such things, putting his own life in danger to protect his sheep.

Prep 3 – When the sheep are occupied during a day of grazing, I imagine David getting in a little sling-shot practice. Perhaps he places stones of varying sizes on a big rock and tries to hit them with one shot at different distances. He may use the sling along with his rod and brute force on wild animals, too.

 

Besides harp preparation, fighting fierce animals, and becoming a sling shot expert, another part of David’s preparation is spiritual.

Prep 4 – We’ve already seen spiritual depth developing in the text of his songs. Now, after his anointing by Samuel, we are told that,

…from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. I Samuel 16:13

This will become his greatest source of strength. He will use these preparations and arise to use the gifts God has given him in order to become a mighty force in the life of Israel. 

Next week – David will receive an “invite” to the palace. 

~ Joyce ~

 

Frazzled in the Season

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I found this very apropos writing in a little book of Christmas collections called “Christmas Joy.” It is an adaptation from I Corinthians 13 by Sharon Jaynes. I thought you would enjoy and appreciate it as the clock ticks down to Christmas.

LOVE, FIRST CORINTHIANS 13-STYLE

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family—I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozen of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my familyI’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family—it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ,  I have missed the point.

 

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love  is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break; necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

by Sharon Jaynes (www.sharonjaynes.com)

May you move into these final days with love, joy, anticipation, and be completely un-frazzled.

I look forward to my son and his family coming in from South Carolina and joining us along with my daughter and her family from here in Louisville. Seven delightful grandchildren and I’m not one bit prejudiced!

Merry Christmas to all.

~ Joyce ~

David – A Man After God’s Own Heart

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

“He (or she) is a person after God’s own heart.” Can you think of anything better for someone to say about you than that?

When King Saul had disobeyed God, Samuel came to him with the news that he had acted foolishly.

“…now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and appointed him leader of his people.” I Samuel 13:14

David was that man. We could talk about this dynamic character for a whole year’s worth of blogs, but I think Samuel’s comment sums him up—a man after God’s own heart.

Oh, yes, we would also have to talk about David’s failures and sins; he was not a perfect man. We would need to be reminded of his overt sin with Bathsheba and the resultant cover-up attempt which eventually led to the murder of her husband, Uriah. In addition, his fatherly instincts with his boys were deplorable, leaving him to flee from one of his own sons who tried to take over the throne.

Yet, he was a man after God’s own heart. 

David lived in a savage time in the history of Israel. God’s command to go in and conquer the  promised land required one brutal battle after the other. Not a pretty sight, yet David was given the gifts of leadership, perseverance, and courage to see it through. He patiently waited his turn for kingship and honored the position of God’s anointed as he waited. In the midst of it all, he sought after God’s own heart.

Through his songs, we see the tender, compassionate side of David.

“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning. My God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from sin.” Psalm 51:1-2 

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” Psalm 51:6

Do you hear his longing and struggle to have a heart for God? How many times have we heard David refer to God as his rock, his fortress, and strength? And then we hear David’s beautiful comparison of the Lord as his shepherd in Psalm 23.

And so, Jerusalem became known as the city of David. Jesus was often referred to as the Son of David.

While we do not wish to be David and certainly not act like him in particular aspects, we can learn from him to the extinct that we desire to be a person after God’s own heart.

These are some final thoughts about David in my quiet moments these past two weeks as I continue to exercise, rest, and put on ice packs with anticipation of healing. Like so many things in life, we must wait with patience which includes having a heart that resembles God’s own heart.

~ Joyce ~

 

David – Persistence, Patience, Hope

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

 

So what does one do when one is waiting for a replaced knee to heal? Exercise, rest, prop up with ice packs, eat, sleep, pile up ice packs, exercise, take pain pills—did I mention ice packs? Then, of course, spend time in the last thirteen chapters of I Samuel with David on the run from Saul.

Doesn’t everybody do that?

In my ample time for pondering, I’ve wondered if David might have thought about the time when Samuel came to anoint him as the next king of Israel. It was a a quiet little ceremony with family and a few friends. Did it seem like a far away dream to David now?

Here he was—conqueror of the Philistine giant, a leading soldier in Saul’s army, slayer of ten thousands, talented harpist in the kingdom, faithful follower. Why then, why did Saul pursue him? That’s his constant question for Saul.

In last week’s blog, David could certainly have taken Saul’s life, but he didn’t. Another time, David slipped into Saul’s nighttime camp and could have easily killed Saul with the king’s own spear, but once again, David spared Saul’s life. When Saul realized that it was David’s voice he heard across the valley and that David had proof (Saul’s own spear) that he had been within inches of Saul’s head, Saul called out with a sugar-dipped voice,

“Is that your voice, David my son?” I Samuel 26:17, 18

Saul realizes that once again David could have killed him. Somehow David continues to honor the position of the anointed one. David has more honor than the king himself. Saul appears convicted, but David doesn’t buy it. 

David must ask the questions we we all do at times. How did it come to this? What have I done to deserve this? Where are those wonderful dreams of what could be, what should be? Pity-party time.

Yet David perseveres in the midst of it all. He has not forgotten that he is a son of Israel, a child of the one-God. He has gathered together a small band of 600 soldiers, mostly riffraff like himself who have ended up in a runaway status for one reason or another. David manages to find refuge with a Philistine official, persuading the official that he is trustworthy. David and his men are given the land of Ziglag. 

When trouble brews with his own men, he still endures the challenge with patience and verses like these are tucked in the narrative every now and then.

But David found strength in the Lord his God. I Samuel 30:6

David didn’t live to hear Paul speak the following words, but David lived these words.

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

I’m learning with David that great victories don’t come quickly. Hope comes in baby steps. I struggle to lift a foot or the leg even an inch in exercises. It seems I get nowhere and one day, I can move two inches. Then after hundreds of attempts that knee pops right up where it should be. Victory in struggle! 

How many times must we learn these lessons? As many times as it takes!

~ Joyce ~

 

Fruit of the Spirit – PATIENCE

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

A couple of years ago, my 10 year-old grandson excitedly asked, “Are you ready for your first lesson on your new iPad, Nana?” We sat side by side on the sofa. Instead of  grabbing it away from me to do it himself, he went step by step, ever so patiently, telling me how to navigate my way around—a great example of patience!

Patience. We may sigh and say, “If I’m going to have patience, it will indeed have to be a gift.” Patience smacks of waiting and enduring—even when you’re fighting frustration inside. Well there’s the problem—what’s on the inside? Gifts of the Spirit are more about what we are than what we do. If what we are isn’t in check, then what we do loses its strength.

I’m knee-deep in the process of starting my next book. At this point, the Lord has given me only a partial skeleton of the plot—real partial, like three vertebrae, two fingers and a toe bone. However, because of previous experience, I realize He gives just what I need for the time being. As I faithfully follow those leads, He will reveal more. Patience. In that sense, patience means waiting.

The Lord impressed a favorite verse on me during a very trying time in my life.

Those who hope in the Lord (or as KJV says, “wait upon the Lord”) will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

I grew to understand that in order to walk, run, or best yet, soar on wings like the eagles, I had to wait, but not just sit idly by; I had to wait on the Lord. In His time, He miraculously turned things around. 

We’re not talking about waiting with a grumbling and complaining attitude or stomping a foot at God with a fist in the air. What’s in the heart will eventually show itself. No, the Scripture means to patiently wait, wait with expectation and hope, anticipating that He will grow us along the way so we can walk, then run, and eventually soar!

We have those times when we are so exasperated with loads of activity or expectations, or relationships with bosses, co-workers, friends or family members, etc. It is all we can do to endure. It isn’t so much a matter of waiting, but enduring. Both carry heavy negative connotations unless we draw the fruit of patience from the Holy Spirit. So what is patience? In many ways, it is closely akin to peace. It is calm in the midst of frustration. When love is present, it puts a positive slant on our ability to have patience. If we have joy in our soul, it subdues our lack of patience. All the fruit fit together, don’t they?

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;

May I devote my life wholly to Thee:

Watch Thou my wayward feet, Guide me with counsel sweet;

Purer in heart, help me to be.

Remember from last week—Inhale the Spirit, Exhale anxiety.

~ Joyce ~